Unregistered Designs

There are currently two parallel systems for the unregistered protection of designs in the UK: UK Unregistered Design Right (“UKURD”) and European Unregistered Design Right (“EUURD”).

UKURD protects a design from being copied in the UK for up to 15 years (precise duration depending on the relationship between date of recording the design/producing an article to the design and sale of articles made to the design). EUURD protects a design for three years from the date on which the design was first made available to the public in the EU. EUURD applies across the whole of the EU.

UKURD and EUURD also have a different scope of protection. UKURD protects the shape or configuration of an article (but not, for example, surface decoration). EUURD protects the appearance of a product resulting from features such as the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation (thus surface decoration can be protected).

Due to costs associated with registered rights, unregistered protection is particularly important for start-ups and recent graduates, and the shorter duration EU right provides important free pan-EU protection and supplements the initial period of protection in the UK with its wider scope.

EUURD is a right that arises out of EU legislation. While existing EUURDs should continue to have effect within the remainder of the EU, it seems unlikely that a post-Brexit government would enact legislation to provide for the continuation of the right in the UK, since such legislation would be complex to draft and would have effect for only a short time. Therefore, it is to be expected that the benefit of EUURD in the UK would be lost. Moreover, new designs first published post-Brexit in the UK will generally not benefit from EUURD at all, since in most cases EUURD only subsists for designs first published within the EU.